Monday, January 13, 2014

From Theism to Moral Objectivity

Many people hold that God exists, and that he has given certain commandments (such as the Ten Commandments)
But if moral values are subjective, then these commandments would reflect God’s subjective opinion, and would be no more legitimate than the opinion of, say, Bill Clinton.
But that is absurd. If there is a God, then his “opinion” has to occupy the position of fact.

Therefore, moral values are objective and not subjective.


Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Hi Victor -- Where did that argument come from?

im-skeptical said...

"If there is a God, then his “opinion” has to occupy the position of fact."

That's a pretty big 'if'.

Victor Reppert said...

It is an argument that shows the implications of theism. It's not a theistic argument. But it is remarkable how many Christians are relativists, or claim to be when asked.

Marcus said...


Firstly, kudos, I don't think I have seen an argument quite like this before. However, as written I find it somewhat confusing and think it may conflate different senses of "objective", "subjective" and vagueness about "opinions." Particularly premise 2:

"But if moral values are subjective, then these commandments would reflect God’s subjective opinion, and would be no more legitimate than the opinion of, say, Bill Clinton."

Does that mean:

If there are no right answers to moral questions, then these commandments would merely reflect God's opinion, and be no more valid than anyone else's opinion.

If so, it would follow that if there was a god that knew everything, he would know the right answers to moral questions. Leading to the conclusion:

Therefore there are right answers to moral questions (and God knows them).

Naturally, the problem of getting Christians to agree on the moral rules would still exist because there's much disagreement on what the rules are or even if specific guidelines were given.

Dan Gillson said...

Dr Reppert,

1. Premise two is begging the question against the legitimacy of subjectivity. Wouldn't the opinions of God, if they were truly subjective, qua His omniscience, carry more legitimacy than the opinions of Bill Clinton? What is it about the ontology of subjectivity which makes all subjective responses "illegitimate?"

2. It doesn't necessarily follow from the facticity of God's "opinions" that moral values are objective. Qua His omnipotence, God could be enforcing His moral "opinions" as facts. He could merely be tyrannizing us, subjecting us to His will without reason.

Dan Gillson said...

Here is my longer response

oozzielionel said...

Here is an attempt to reword your OP to reflect an option other than Divine Command Theory:

Many theists hold that God has revealed his moral standards for humanity.
Many of these moral standards are expressed in absolute terms. Those absolute moral standards are not dependent on cultural or special situations but are revealed as an expression of God’s own character. God requires humanity to reflect these aspects of his character as beings created in His image. These absolute moral standards based on God’s character are considered objective moral standards.
Some revealed situational standards are derivatives of the objective moral standards applied to specific cultural or special situations. These moral standards are subjective in the sense that objective standards are interpreted and applied to specific situations. For example, the objective standard that men are under the authority of God is expressed culturally in the First Century by men praying with their head uncovered. Removing one’s hat for prayer in today’s culture communicates respect but may not communicate removing a symbol of authority to man.

Jeffery Jay Lowder said...

Victor -- Let me rephrase this question. Is this an original argument of yours? Or did you get it from someone else? If so, where?

For what it's worth, I think you're onto something.


Victor Reppert said...

In some sense I would have thought the point was obvious. But I have noticed that some people who call themselves Christians are relativists, not seeing what seems to me the obvious contradiction.

JB Chappell said...

I think #3 needs to be developed further. Technically, opinions are facts, insofar as they reflect the fact that someone holds that opinion, but this is clearly not what is meant. An underlying assumption here is that God can't hold a "merely" subjective opinion of anything. If God does not like heavy metal music, does that mean it is "objectively" bad? Why can't He just have His own preferences? On what basis would we think that whatever God subjectively prefers, this becomes objective in some way OTHER than "this is what God prefers".